ISKCON of Houston’s Ecstatic Celebration of Jagannath Yatra

HOUSTON: Sunday, June 12th evening turned out to be a blissful day despite the simmering heat with the auspicious and ecstatic celebration of Jagannath Ratha yatra with hundreds of Houstonians at ISKCON of Houston.

The Festival of Chariots (Ratha Yatra), is a joyous event celebrated for thousands of years in the Indian holy city of Jagannatha Puri, and more recently by Hare Krishna devotees in cities around the world.

Jagannatha is another name for Lord Krishna and refers to the ecstatic form of the Lord with large eyes and rugged features who is carried on a chariot during this festival.

Lord Krishna once overheard a conversation about how His dearest devotees were lamenting in His absence. When He heard these accounts of overwhelming love in separation, the Lord’s hair began to stand on end, His eyes opened wide and filled with tears, and His arms and legs contracted as He went into a state of spiritual ecstasy. Seeing Lord Krishna in this condition, His elder brother, Lord Balarama also began to feel ecstatic symptoms and displayed similar features. Their sister, Subhadra, arrived at the scene, she too became consumed with ecstatic joy. Thus the sublime deity forms of Jagannatha, Subhadra, and Baladeva represent this sweet pastime.
The festival represents Lord Jagannatha’s longing to reunite with His dear devotees in Vrindavana, foremost among them, Srimati Radharani. According to tradition, the Lord gets lovesick once a year just prior to the festival. To cheer him up, His servants arrange for Him to go on a lavish procession to meet up with His devotees. Lord Jagannatha rides on a grand chariot, accompanied by onlookers and marching bands with scores of drummers, singers, and dancers. India’s colonial British rulers coined the term “juggernaut” from the large, heavy chariot used to celebrate this festival in the city of Jagannatha Puri.
Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the combined incarnation of Radha-Krishna, encouraged all of His followers to celebrate Ratha-yatra with great enthusiasm. It is said that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu got down on His hands and knees to scrub the Gundicha temple where Lord Jagannatha would stay at the end of the Ratha-yatra parade.
Srila Prabhupada, the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, was very fond of Ratha-yatra and joined thousands of disciples in cities around the world as they celebrated elaborate Ratha-yatra chariot festivals in the streets of London, Paris, Sydney, Tokyo, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and on New York’s prestigious Fifth Avenue.

Ratha-yatra signifies the Lord’s love for His devotees. He personally comes to visit His devotees and the public who welcome Him.

ISKCON Houston pujaris, led by HG Papahari Caitanya Dāsa carved these beautiful Deities of Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra over the last six months.   These beautiful Deities graced the members in our Houston community for the first time with Their Snana Yatra (bathing ceremony) last Sunday, June 5th with over 500 people in attendance.  A joyous Ratha Yatra celebration was held on Sunday, June 12 evening with three beautiful Chariots adorned with colorful decorations prepared by our Pujaris.  Hundreds of devotees from all across Houston welcomed the Deities and danced to their hearts content with ecstatic kirtan on the streets near the temple.   The celebration concluded with the performance of Maha Aarati and distribution of sumptuous dinner prasadam.  At the end of the celebration everyone in attendance were content with the blissful experience of love of the Jagannath – Lord of the Universe.
Iskcon of Houston is located at 1320 West 34th Street and you can visit their website,  for details and upcoming programs.